The mother of Gamecocks safety Pierre Warren said her son’s team was blowing away McNeese State, pretty much booking their trip to the quarterfinals of the NCAA Division I Football Championship tournament in the process.
“We knew it was going to be a good year,” Warren said. “We didn’t know it would be this good.”
JSU football fans aren’t used to making travel plans based around their team this late in the year. This season marked the first time the team had won a playoff game — against Samford Nov. 30 — in Division I, and with the win over McNeese, the team is off to face Eastern Washington University in Cheney, Wash., on Saturday.
The university has been directing fans who want to go to the game to book flights through Southwest Airlines. As of Tuesday, flights departing Atlanta on Friday and arriving in Spokane, Wash., then returning to Atlanta on Sunday were $432. Hotel prices in Cheney and Spokane ranged from about $50 to $150 a night. Tickets for the game are $20.
It isn’t just fans doing a last-minute scramble for tickets and travel. Greg Seitz, the senior associate athletic director for JSU, said as late as Monday afternoon the school was still trying to secure a charter flight for the band and cheerleaders.
“The logistics of doing this all in less than six days is crazy,” Seitz said.
The flight, which will depart Birmingham on Friday at 10 a.m., also has 40 additional seats for fans for $500 each. The university also is providing a discounted price for the Hilton Hotel in Spokane for $79 on Friday night.
And for the football fans who can’t fly across country, the university will host a viewing party during the game Saturday at the Stadium Club in JSU’s Stadium Tower. Tickets for the party are $5 for adults, free for students and children under 18.
Should the Gamecocks keep up their playoff run with a win Saturday, the team will be on the road the following weekend in either Towson, Md., or in Charleston, Ill., for the semifinal round. The championship game will be in Frisco, Texas.
Staff writer Brian Anderson: 256-235-3546. On Twitter @BAnderson_Star.